Take Five: Cameron Mizell, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Wadada Leo Smith & More (JAZZ LP RECAPS)

Take Five is a seasonal jazz column by Glide contributor Doug Collette, who will be taking snap-shot reviews of recent jazz albums…

Cameron Mizell – Negative Spaces: Alternately insistent and intoxicating, this album belies its title with uninterruptedly elevating sounds, most of them emanating from Mizell’s guitar, the authority and invention of which carries over into the musicianship surrounding him. Brad Whitely may be quickest on the uptake with his battery of keyboards, but drummer Kenneth Salters is ever-present, helping in no small part to maintain a fluidity that gives this album a circularity that compels repeated (and regular) listenings. Last but not least, before the record’s over, Mizell and company rock with all the grace and decisive action with which they insinuate themselves elsewhere.

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Rising Grace:Almost immediately after Wolfgang Muthspiel begins this opening title song with the deft precise picking of an acoustic, the trumpet of Ambrose Akinmusire begins to unfurl, thereby setting the tone for the album: the guitarist at the top of the bill acts as the central catalyst around which his very esteemed cast of accompanists orbit, as each displays their respective talents, albeit in a most restrained and judicious way. As a result, fans of the brilliant pianist Brad Mehldau may not hear enough of the intricate intensity of his work, but Muthspiel makes sure none of his original material here becomes simply a vehicle for improvisation: the musicianship is all in service of the song(s).

Nick Sanders & Logan Strosahl – Janus:  It’s quite obvious right from the start of this record that pianist Nick Sanders and saxophonist Logan Strosahl delight in playing with each other. The interplay they enact with their respective instruments is continuously playful, even when they descend from the gaiety that pervades most of these tracks to engage in a more thoughtful exploration of a song, as on the solemn take of Monk’s “Thelonious” and the brief but pungent “Be Bop Tune.” The camaraderie between these two musicians is extraordinary even in the most delicate moments.

Jonathan Goldberger- Surface to Air: In keeping with the vivid cover photos of a fog-drenched forest inside and outside this digi-pak, a veritable cloud of ambiance arises from the first notes here, billowing in waves as the acoustic guitars, percussion and upright bass proceed, alternately brisk and deeply mesmerizing, through each successive track. Because the threesome play as if in a trance from one cut to another, there’s a cumulative effect to Goldberger’s collaboration with Rohin Kehmani  (tabla and percussion) and  Jonti Siman (upright bass) that transfers directly to the listener: it’s as intoxicating as it is all-enveloping.

Wadada Leo Smith – America’s National Parks: A work that otherwise might sprawl resides right in the trumpeter’s sweet spot stylistically: it’s not too amorphous or reminiscent of Miles Davis. The concept  depicted by the title no doubt helps, but the persistent presence of The (aptly named) Golden Quintet is absolutely essential:  the insistence of their playing, from drummer Pheeroan akLaff to pianist Anthony Davis, is clear and focused, keeping Smith reined in and tied to the compositions just enough to maintain a balance of the accessible and the abstract. That said, with but six tracks over the course of this two-CD set, that discipline might well have been even further enhanced with  the album distilled to a single disc.


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